NORAD, USNORTHCOM Maritime Stakeholders Conference provides clarity for new mission

By Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher | NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs | March 31, 2010

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – How to better share information and protect U.S. and Canadian waterways were foremost on the minds of the nearly 250 people attending the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command Maritime Stakeholders Conference March 29 – April 2.

The conference coordinators hope to break down barriers and streamline processes between the military organizations and civilian agencies responsible for maritime security for the U.S. and Canada.

“The big goal is to get an understanding of the gaps, seams and barriers to information sharing in the maritime domain,” said Canadian Navy Capt. Kurt Salchert, NORAD Maritime Division chief. “This is important because it ties directly into the NORAD maritime warning mission.”

Captain Salchert said the key to succeeding in that mission is to attain maritime domain awareness, the understanding of everything associated with the maritime environment. Not just awareness of what ships are where, he said, but ships, cargo, infrastructure, ports, financial transactions, all of which contribute in some way to the maritime environment.

That mission began in 2006 when the NORAD Agreement was renewed. Captain Salchert said the authors of that agreement were looking beyond the traditional aerospace warning mission.

“With the very connected nature of the American and Canadian economies, the integrated nature of our infrastructure, the integrated nature of our maritime trade, we need to ensure we are sharing information in the maritime domain just to ensure that our integrated economies and our marine infrastructure remain secure and safe,” he explained.

In remarks Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart made at the conference, he agreed, noting the importance of the U.S. and Canada’s waterways to the economy.

“The maritime environment is really the medium of our economy,” General Renuart said. “You look at the amount of material that’s moved through the maritime domain and it is raw goods, it is energy, it is finished products and it’s vacations and a variety of other things we see out there. If we can’t ensure that we have a safe and secure environment to move that kind of critical capacity for our nations, then shame on us.”

Captain Salchert said NORAD and the other agencies responsible for maritime safety and security face several obstacles to achieving and maintaining maritime domain awareness, most importantly how to better share information.

“I think the biggest obstacle is that amongst all the strategies, visions, plans, concepts of operations being articulated by the different departments, agencies and commands is that they have all captured the objective of the need for better information sharing and collaboration, but all of these visions, strategies, plans and concepts are short in answering the ‘how,’” he said. “How are we going to achieve those objectives? I’m optimistic that in this conference having these 250 Canadian, American and interagency partners, that we can move beyond defining the ‘what’ and work towards the how. Let’s define what our information needs are as individual departments and then share our critical information needs.”

Captain Salchert said the conference will also address roles and responsibilities, legal frameworks and how to better collaborate with industrial partners.

“No single command, department or agency can achieve maritime domain awareness or secure the maritime environment on its own,” he said. “We have to partner with industry. I’m not just talking about shipping companies or insurance companies, but those industries that are building technology to support maritime domain awareness.”

General Renuart said the maritime domain was not something the U.S. and Canada could afford to overlook.

“The threats in the maritime domain are real,” General Renuart said. “You need only to look at the piracy off the Horn of Africa that continues every day to understand that there are non-nation state actors out there that have a huge impact on our ability to use the seas for our livelihood.”